Unwrapping Christmas: The Gift of Hope

During the Second World War the US Army was forced to retreat from the Philippines. Some of their soldiers were left behind, and became prisoners of the Japanese. The men called themselves “ghosts”, souls unseen by their nation, and on the infamous Bataan Death March were forced to walk over 70 miles, knowing that those who were slow or weak would be bayoneted by their captors or die from dysentery and lack of water. Those who made it through the march spent the next three years in a hellish prisoner-of-war camp. By early 1945, 513 men were still alive at the Cabanatuan prison camp, but they were giving up hope. The US Army was on its way back, but the POW’s had heard the frightening news that prisoners were being executed as the Japanese retreated from the advancing U.S. Army.

Their wavering hope was however met by one of the most magnificent rescues of wartime history. In an astonishing feat 120 US Army soldiers and 200 Filipino guerrillas outflanked 8000 Japanese soldiers to rescue the POW’s.

Alvie Robbins was one of the rescuers. He describes how he found a prisoner muttering in a darkened corner of his barracks, tears coursing down his face.

“I thought we’d been forgotten,” the prisoner said.

“No, you’re not forgotten,” Robbins said softly. “You’re heroes. We’ve come for you.”

Powerful!

Often in life we can start to give up hope, to feel that God has forgotten us, abandoned us to dark and hurtful experiences, but amazingly the Christmas story reminds us, “No, you’re not forgotten. God came for us and He’s coming again.” Thank you Jesus.

There is nothing more powerful in our lives than hope and nothing more catastrophic than losing hope! Hope allows us to go through the incredible challenges of life because we believe a better day and redemption is coming. I love the definition I found this week about Christian hope: “Hope is the confident expectation of the future changes and blessings that God has promised (which we can trust based upon His proven past), but that are not yet completely seen, which the Christian strongly desires and for which he eagerly waits.” 

Nowhere do we see this truth better demonstrated than In Luke 2: 25-38. In these passages of Scripture we see the story of Simeon and Anna waiting for their rescue and redemption. If anyone had reason to be hopeless it was them. God had been silent for 400 years and things looked increasingly hopeless for the Jewish people. They had been ruled by the Persian empire, the Greeks, the Egyptians, the Syrians, and then in 63 B.C. the Roman Empire takes control of Jerusalem. Despite all their efforts to re-establish their worship and way of life, they were still captive and increasingly losing hope. Yet, in the midst of this dark time, hope is born. You could accurately say the entire Christmas story is wrapped in HOPE! Here are four things about hope we can learn from the Christmas story:

1. Even when we don’t see it, feel it, or when God seems silent in our lives, God is at work in the world and He’s at work on our behalf. Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with joy and peace in believing so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”

2. God was faithful in his first coming, after a long delay, and He will be faithful in His second coming. Romans 15:4, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

3. What we put our hope in is critical. Scripture warns us to not put our hope in anything other than God himself (Acts 16:9, John 5:45, I Timothy 6:17, Ephesians 2:12) because it will ultimately fail us.

4. No matter how bad or challenging things are there is always hope with God! Luke 1:37, “For nothing is impossible with God.” Psalm 130:7, “O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption.” 

I really believe many of you need to hear that last one. With God there is always hope! There is hope for you. There is hope for your family. There is hope for change. There is hope for your loved one. Remember that this Christmas season. Because of what Jesus has done in his birth, life, death, and resurrection we ALWAYS HAVE HOPE! 

We love you guys and hope you have a great holiday season.

Dave and April